Tokyo view from Mori Tower by Japanexperterna

Tokyo Adventures Part 1

Some classmates and I decided to venture to Tokyo for a weekend. Because I was heading home immediately after the program ends, this was my only opportunity to see the capital. Together we were able to figure out getting plane and bus tickets, and I was able to use my insider connection (Masanori, a boy who was an exchange student back in California and who lives in Tokyo) to get help finding a decent hotel. He even called the hotel to book us while he was still in America.

Tokyo skyscrapers

Tokyo buildings are big

Our first challenge was in locating our bus to take us from school to the airport. The station above APU’s campus is fairly large, and we weren’t sure which parking lot the bus would take. One of my classmates tried asking a bus driver for directions. I watched the exchange from a short distance, noticing how confused my classmate looked as the driver impatiently repeated his directions. Everyone except I in our Tokyo-bound group was first-level Japanese students. I didn’t know much either, so it felt strange to be the group’s speaking representative. I hurried over to save my classmate. The bus driver repeated his story to me, and I was able to make out that our bus would be coming to the upper parking lot; if we hadn’t asked, we would have missed it. It pays to know a little bit of the language, or at least carry a traveler’s handbook with you.

The plane ride to Tokyo was pleasant; everyone is so polite and helpful at Japanese airports. After we arrived, the boys headed off to find their own place to stay. As for us three girls, we couldn’t have found our hotel without the help of Masanori. Like a trail of lost ducks behind the leader, we followed him through the train stations and streets until coming to the high-rise hotel in Shinjuku. Because it was dark, my first impression of Tokyo was a sea of colored lights filled with people regardless of the late hour.

I was interested in the way you had to slide your hotel key in the elevator to go to different floors, for security. The room was crowded so tightly by the three beds that there was barely walking space between them. None of it was as fancy as our Best Western hotel in Nagasaki, but as a compromise between luxury and cost, it was perfect for our short stay.

Cat saying "whew"Step one—getting there without missing buses, planes or trains—was a success. In retrospect I am amazed at how easily everything could have gone wrong; if we hadn’t asked the bus driver or understood his directions, missing the bus would have led to missing the plane, which would have led to missing the check-in hours at the hotel. None of the employees of any of the services we used knew much English, so we were really yolo-ing it until Masanori took over. The trip was nerve-wracking and fun, and I’m glad I did it.

 

Because WordPress doesn’t show title/caption/alt text/descriptions on cover images, I’m placing the credit for the cover image here: Tokyo View from Mori Tower.
Japanexperterna [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Visit the photographer’s gorgeous site:

www.japanexperterna.se

Japanese curry bread

The Wonder of Curry Bread

Curry bread (karee-pan [kah-reeh pahn]) is the ambrosia of my Japan experience. I would have curry bread over doughnuts any day. This convenience-store food consists of Japanese curry wrapped in dough and breadcrumbs, which is then deep fried(1). The result is a snack that is easy to hold (if a bit greasy) and bursting with spicy curry flavor. You may be thinking of a jelly doughnut, curry version; however, the bread itself has better flavor and texture than an American doughnut, and of course has an entirely different kind of sweetness that complements the curry.

curry bread in manga

“W-what!? The curry…from inside…” !?!

I love this bread so much that I would buy out Asia Pacific University student store’s entire supply in the mornings when they got a new batch. I had to ask a store manager to find out when they restock, so I could be sure to come in time before they sold out. Curry bread can be found in most convenience stores and some bakeries in Japan.

It pains me greatly that this staple Japanese treat doesn’t seem to exist back home in California. I have to go to Sacramento (hours away) just to get melon bread (sweet melon-flavored bread), let alone curry bread (I don’t know if Sacramento Asian markets carry it).

After my study abroad program was over, I asked my second-cousin who is living in Japan to bring me back curry bread when she visited the U.S. I assume she checked the box at the airport, and had to declare she was bringing them back as gifts rather than for resell. It must have looked funny to anyone who checked her bag. That supply didn’t last me very long.

Curry bread in pop culture:

Curry Bread Man is a superhero in the children’s picture book series Anpanman by Yanase Takashi (last-first name), which stars an anthropomorphic sweet-red-bean-paste filled bread.

In chapter 21 of the manga Black Butler by Toboso Yana (last-first name), demon butler Sebastian invents curry bread in old England during a curry contest. The food judge says it better than I can: “The deep fried crispy exterior and soft interior’s texture combined with that sticky curry creates several levels of heavenly taste!” “Ingenious and fragrant, it is all blended together as if it were the very meaning of ‘delicious’. It blossoms the moment it is sliced open!”

(1)Wikipedia contributors. “Curry bread.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 9 May. 2014. Web. 8 Dec. 2014.

Cover image: from Wikipedia commons, taken 4 November 2007 by katorisi

Giant Pachinko Palace

Casinos and Love Hotels: Fantastic Architecture in Beppu

Las Vegas Casino

Las Vegas, in Japan.

While strolling Beppu’s streets (looking for cats or onsen), sometimes a building would catch my eye that had such bizarre architecture that I figured it could be one of two things: either a casino or a love hotel. I laughed when I saw a casino named “Las Vegas”. Admittedly, when I think of Las Vegas all I think of is gambling, too. The Las Vegas building was decorated with red-white-and-blue American colors for that authentic atmosphere, and specialized in pachinko and slot machines.

For more traditional pachinko gambling, a ginormous, flashy yellow building shouts itself into being noticed along the main road. Palaces like that one are testament to the popularity of pachinko and the lucrativeness of owning a gambling business. In the evenings, through the windows I could see rows of what looked like salarymen (guys in businesswear) staring into the machines.

Hotel Swing

This is the hotel I caught sight of in the distance at night before finding the locals’ bathhouse. It doesn’t look quite so threatening during day, when you can see the colors and not just the slit windows. (From Google Images)

Because of space restrictions, many Japanese families live in small apartments. Consequently, couples don’t have many opportunities to have time away from the kids. Married couples are one demographic that takes advantage of love hotel services. These short-stay hotels allow visitors to choose a room for a “rest” (1-3 hours) or an overnight stay. They are not brothels, although unfortunately the total privacy they offer doesn’t discriminate legal from illegal activities. According to Wikipedia, the name originates from Osaka’s 1968 “Hotel Love”, and

has since taken alternate guises by operators trying to make their place sound more fashionable than competition: “romance hotel”, “fashion hotel”, “leisure hotel”, “amusement hotel”, “couples hotel”, and “boutique hotel”. Often you can identify love hotels from their gaudy exteriors (castles, boats, UFOs, neon lighting). Another give-away is when signs outside are decorated with hearts. I remember staring at an eight-story building, wondering why its windows were tiny slits (balistraria?). If it weren’t for the colorfully patterned walls, I might think it was a prison.

Beppu's red light district entrance

I don’t know if this is really a “red light district”, but there are a lot of bars and clubs in the alleyways back there.

The weirdest, kinkiest hotels are what get blogged about (dungeons, fantasy scenes, Hello Kitty S&M). While it’s scary to think about the safety issues of these venues, the creative architecture designs are amusing to see as a casual tourist on the outside. For the sake of couples who don’t want anything fancy, just some quality time, there are ordinary looking buildings whose main feature is guaranteeing privacy. I can’t imagine love hotels being successful in puritan America, especially since laws require renters to give their information for safety and liability reasons. Considering America’s crime rate compared to Japan’s, I don’t think America is mature enough to handle couples hotels.

The most interesting love hotels in Beppu are lined up by the docks. They give off a quiet, respectable vibe just like any hotel. Beppu’s host and hostess clubs occupy the hidden alleyways farther inland, a completely different scene. While we searched for cats, my friend and I were amused by fancily dressed men standing outside clubs.

As my high school English professor used to proclaim, life and Shakespeare run on drugs, sex, and rock n’ roll. Every culture dresses them differently.

YouMe Mall

CatGirl Poster

Catgirls sell eyeliner in Japan

The first thing I noticed coming into Beppu’s YouMe mall was a cardboard catgirl advertising makeup. It was probably eyeliner; her wingtipped eyeliner played into the cat theme, along with her ears and leopard print dress.

I never get bored in a mall in Japan. Even the most mundane items are made interesting because of cute or strange packaging (e.g. cat litter showing a cat pinching its nose, Sailor Moon feminine pads). I love Japanese fashion, so every shop was filled with a motherlode of Awesome. Because I can’t buy every shirt with a cat on it, I settled for taking pictures of stuff that caught my eye instead.

The toy stores were nostalgic; I didn’t expect to recognize so many familiar characters. They had everything from those little bunny dolls to the plastic Go Fish game. Browsing the aisles made me realize how international the toy market is.

No Japanese mall is complete without an arcade center. I don’t like arcade games myself, because I’m convinced they are all rigged against me (I especially fail at crane machines). My APU classmates really enjoyed them, particularly Namco’s Taiko game. I tried it once. Although I was clearly an amateur from my poor score, hitting the drums in tune with cute characters’ instructions on a screen was fun. The game was like Guitar Hero with drums.

Arcade games

Arcade games at Youme mall

A prime feature of the arcade center is purikkura, picture booths. Schoolgirls love them, as I often saw uniformed groups hanging around the booths. Entering purikkura was a bit awkward for me, but my APU group wanted to take pictures every time we went by a machine. A cheery female voice tells you which poses to make, and afterwards you can draw or put stickers on the digital images. The photos then print out of the side of the machine. Each machine has a different theme, and all of them have auto-enhancing features that make your skin look smooth. I wish school photos were automatically surface-blurred for the yearbook.

Japanese schoolgirls

Schoolgirls check out one of the purikkura stations

I thought it was strange that outside one purikkura center there was a sign forbidding two boys from entering without a girl (escort?). There were male/female cutout shapes like those you see on bathroom doors. Girls? Ok! A girl and a guy? Ok! Guys and a girl? Fine! Just boys? Not allowed! At first I was put off by thinking it might be gay discrimination. I asked one of my teachers, and she supposed it was to deter rough boys who might mess around and break the machine. Perhaps, she said, the center had had trouble with groups of boys damaging their property. Apparently they assumed that as long as there was a girl in a group, guys would be calmer and less likely to abuse the machines.

As I mentioned a couple posts back, I love Japan’s creative use of English in their marketing. You-Me has a friendly connotation of “a mall for You and Me”. It also looks similiar to youmei, ‘famous’. A famous mall for you and me!

Malicious Mushroom

shiitake mushroom photo from wikipedia

Shiitake mushroom growing on wood. By frankenstoen from Portland, Oregon

Watch out for allergies when studying abroad. Make sure to bring all necessary medications, with a Yakkan Shoumei if need be (certificate that allows you to bring more than one month’s supply of prescription medication into Japan). Finding information on how to acquire a medicine certificate was difficult, and in the end, no one ever checked it at customs. Still, I felt safer being prepared. Note that stimulants, such as those containing Methamphetamine or Amphetamine (found in ADHD medications) are banned in Japan. Narcotics are also banned.

A Q&A pdf can be found here: http://www.mhlw.go.jp/english/policy/health-medical/pharmaceuticals/dl/qa1.pdf

More information on importing medications here: http://japan.usembassy.gov/e/acs/tacs-medimport.html

Studying abroad is not the best time to discover you have an allergy you never knew existed. Early in the program, our group went out to eat at a Korean barbeque place in downtown Beppu. It was a big, fancy restaurant with long tables and zabuton pillows to sit on. I’ve been to yakiniku (BBQ) places in Sacramento where you fry your own food at the table, so I had an idea of what to expect. These places fill up with steam and smoke, so if you are sensitive to stuffy air, you probably want to avoid yakiniku. With this many people, it was difficult to share the table grill. The main point was to provide a comfortable setting to be social and get to know the group. To be honest, my experience in Sacramento was by far more pleasant and delicious.

grill at yakiniku restaurant

The grill placed onto our table at the yakiniku restaurant.

I love mushrooms. My favorite is Portabella, ever since having a Portabella sandwich at UC Davis in California. I would never gather and eat wild mushrooms, because I’m afraid I’d pick poisonous ones by mistake. Death caps look an awful lot like other, edible mushrooms. I’d had mushroom dishes of various varieties before my trip to Japan, and enjoyed them all.

I had no idea why I had a rash a day or so after eating out. It quickly grew worse, until I had itchy bumps all over my body. Alarmed, I went to the health clinic to get answers. The nurses there referred me to a skin doctor. I was very glad that I had a Japanese friend escort me (thanks Anri!). The clinic was tiny, with only two or three examination rooms. None of the staff spoke any English. Not the women at the front desk, nor the doctor. If you visit a health clinic off-campus, be prepared for a language barrier or take someone with you to interpret.

The doctor only had to look once at the rash before recognizing it as shiitake mushroom poisoning. The rash appears in distinct lines, as though the skin has been clawed by an animal. I found out later that shiitake allergy is rare. A reaction can happen when the mushroom is not thoroughly cooked. That mushroom I had taken off the grill at the yakiniku place hadn’t been cooked free of all its toxins. In fact, it had probably been mostly raw.

For the following week I was a miserable, red and itchy mess. The salve and medicine the doctor gave me helped clear it up, but wearing clothing and doing anything that chafed skin still hurt for quite a while.

Yakiniku Restaurant

Yakiniku Restaurant – Korean barbecue.

Wikipedia only has a brief mention of the allergy: “Rarely, consumption of raw or slightly cooked shiitake mushrooms may evoke signs of allergy, including “an erythematous, micro-papular, streaky, extremely pruriginous rash” that occurs all over the body including face and scalp, appearing about 48 hours after consumption and disappearing after several days. This effect, presumably caused by the polysaccharide lentinan, is known in Asia but is unfamiliar to Europeans. Although it may occur in roughly 2% of the population, thorough cooking may eliminate allergenicity.”[1]

Now that I know I’m allergic to shiitake, I try to avoid it. Since coming back from Japan I’ve only had one light reaction after eating at a Chinese restaurant. Fortunately, the rash’s “claw marks” were faint because the mushrooms had been cooked better.

I’m happy and grateful that I had support when I got sick. I can’t imagine how frightening it would be to break out in an unknown rash when alone in a foreign country. When you travel anywhere, always have a plan for sudden sickness or injury, because the unexpected will happen.

[1] Wikipedia contributors. “Shiitake.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 26 Oct. 2014. Web. 16 Nov. 2014.

An International University Still Has Engrish

Drawing of Professor Toilet

Toilet sensei teaches you the right way to flush

At a university with multinational students and English language education, I might expect that the signs around campus would have quality English, but that wasn’t necessarily the case. Most public signs at Asia Pacific University (APU) were in both Japanese and English. I don’t know why they didn’t include languages like Korean, Chinese and Vietnamese, seeing as how there is probably a greater population of those students than English speakers. I suspect it is because English looks cool and impressive to native Japanese.

Everyone loves Engrish; there are entire websites dedicated to posting Engrish examples. Engrish happens when another language is poorly translated into English, sometimes with humorous and illogical results. English is an extremely difficult language to learn. It is full of irregular grammar forms and subtleties that even native speakers have a hell of a time getting right. I should know; I’m taking editorial classes, and all those dangling modifiers and case forms give me a headache. You think you know English, until taking a grammar class. I have great pity and awe for ESL students.

That said, it is little wonder that Engrish happens. However, considering that there are an abundance of English professors and some native English speakers on APU’s campus, it shouldn’t be too hard to get something proofread before printing it on a public sign. Some examples were bathroom and cafeteria postings. The sentences might have been technically correct, but in a wrong tense or just unnaturally phrased. On the tray return, a plastic sign read, “Give attention to a thing left behind. Have you forgotten left card or cash on your tray?” In the bathroom, “The faucet has not been turned off properly. Please check whether water has stopped” (all that last one needs is a ‘may not have’ instead of ‘has not’).

Honestly, it was enjoyable for me to find and read Engrish, which might be why English students don’t bother correcting any of the awkward phrases. They’re cute, and make me smile. The best English is on commercial packaging. Because English looks cool, stores create English mottos using positive sounding words. The nonsensical phrases might not work in America, but they are trendy in Japan. I hope these examples make you smile as much as I did.

Most of these are from You-Me mall, in Beppu:

 ACT-1:

Our tiny dream touch your heart. “Simple smile”, natural frame of mind. What’s up babie? I’m gonna tell you something goods. Here is the name, “ACT-1”. By the way, do you know it? “ACT-1” means we wish we wanna be First-Action for find your favorites. You must meet something brand-new here. What do you find something today, Friends, Goods, or Lovers? Come up and see me! Be yourself. Be simple mind. Always come here, surely you get comfortable feeling.

That hip English slang definitely gave me a comfortable feeling. I looked, but I couldn’t find a Lover at Act-1. False advertising.

Belparrot x Fiofio:

If you dress up in your favorite way, gloomy will be blown away!

This is my favorite. It’s sweet, adorable and true.

Chime:

Casual Smile ♫ It is light-hearted that can be put on and ease daily. Clothes put on because it is free.

They didn’t offer free clothes.

(I don’t know the name of this store):

It is for positive girls who never forget a sense of fun. Based on the item which is girlish and edgy, trend-mixed life sized style is for you…

R Can Can:

We make you happy with shoes.

ChichiKaka:

Happy trade. Happy ethnic.

Happy ethnic?

Boar warning sign close-up

Boar Warning!!

Boar warning sign

Inoshishi shutsubotsu chuui!! Boar Warning!! We don’t usually have signs with double exclamation marks in America, do we?

When studying abroad, unfamiliar sounds, sights and smells make you hyper-aware that you are in a foreign ecosystem. Like an itchy clothes tag, it takes a while to stop thinking, “Oh yeah, I’m really in Japan,” every time you hear the uguisu Japanese bush warbler, gawk at weird bugs on your dorm window screen, and catch whiffs of sulfur from natural hot springs. The uguisu was my number one alarm that I wasn’t in California anymore. I’ve heard it many times in anime paired with the sound of bamboo fountains (Shishi-odoshi or souzu, “scare the deer” fountains). Next to Japanese cicadas, it is my favorite iconic sound of Japan. Asking the names of unfamiliar animals and sources of sounds you hear is a nice conversation starter.

For some reason the “Boar Warning” signs posted near the woods struck me as bizarre and funny, mostly because I didn’t expect them. Wild boars seem like a very exotic type of pest. Ever since I saw the sign, I was very excited about seeing a real boar. Unfortunately, they never made an appearance around the campus. I was hoping one would suddenly burst from the bamboo (so long as I was at a safe distance), but no such luck. I suppose they were burrowed deep inside the surrounding forests. In Japanese they are called inoshishi, as you can see written on the sign in katakana.

Japanese bugs—at least in Kyuushuu—are much more colorful than what I normally see in California. My friend Rose Clement took most of these photos. If anyone can tell me what the unnamed critters are, I’d be grateful. The praying mantis and walking stick are the only ones I can recognize.

Japanese Cicadas (Semi)

Tanna japonensis

I love Japanese cicada. Next to cats and onsen, hearing the cicada in real life as opposed to in an anime made my Japan experience extraordinary. Their summer sound is as iconic as that “ker-thunk” of a Japanese bamboo fountain. I heard at least two types of cicada—the Kumazemi (Cryptotympana facialis), and my absolute favorite, Higurashi (also known as Kanakana, Tanna japonensis). Is it possible to fangirl over cicada? Because I was definitely in kya! kya! mode when I first heard real higurashi outside the dorms. A certain horror anime (Wikipedia link) made me fall in love with them as eerie foreshadowing of horrible events (kind of like crows calling at dusk). Sure, we have cicada in California, but none of ours sound so singsong-awesome. I was so excited that I took my MP3-player to record their sound, and crept around the side of the dorm buildings to where they sang the loudest. Behind the motorcycle parking lot there was an edge of bamboo forest. I felt odd standing back there, because it was also next to dorm windows. I imagined people peering out and wondering what the heck that girl was doing sneaking about with a recording device. It was especially disconcerting when, coming back, I noticed a police car parked in front of the dorm, but apparently that was a total coincidence because I never saw any officers.

My higurashi recording night 1:
[audio https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/24476810/Higurashi%201%20COPY.mp3]

My higurashi recording night 2:
[audio https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/24476810/Higurashi%202%20COPY%20clip.mp3]

Japanese police car

Japanese police (keisatsu) car parked in front of my dorm. I don’t know why it was there.

 

The higurashi didn’t start calling until halfway through my trip, after rainy season had passed and the dead heat of late summer kicked in. They sang every evening for about an hour from then on. Higurashi only sing at sunset, which is part of what makes them great heralds of nightfall and scary events in anime. In my opinion, their song is the most beautiful of all the cicada. It is a melancholy, sad chorus. Because I was recording from an old MP3 player I didn’t get the best quality; you’d have to hear them in real life for the full effect. The more insects there are singing at once, the more magical their chorus.

I thought it was strange that when I talked about the higurashi to a Japanese woman who lives on campus, she said she had never really noticed the cicada’s unique call before. I guess if you live there, they become background noise that you tune out.

bamboo behind the dorms

Poor quality picture of where I recorded the higurashi

I was able to hear what I think may have been kumazemi during our homestay in Bungotakeda, as we were walking through temples. They sang in a loud collective hiss from the bushes.

Here is a great article I always refer to when looking up types of Japanese cicada: http://kimoto.cc/ykk/semi.html . It includes sound recordings of Kumazemi, minminzemi, higurashi, and tsukutsukuboshi.

  

Dear You -Cry- (Higurashi no Naku Koro ni) vocal by Yuduki (Yuzuki) [Youtube video below]: A very nice use of higurashi calls inside a song

Obaasan enjoying bath

Onsen in Beppu—Discovering the Locals’ Hangout

On another warm night, my friend Mari and I were feeling adventurous, and we decided to search on foot for some of the lesser advertised, non-touristy bathhouses. We had a vague map, but weren’t at all sure what to expect as we squeezed through dark, narrow alleyways and around unmarked buildings. At first glance it was hard to tell if the nested complex we came to was the right place, or even a bathhouse at all. However, when we entered one of the ground floor buildings there was the familiar window for an entrance fee and male and female bath curtains. Only an hour remained until closing time, so we hurried to the middle-aged lady at the counter to pay.

“The water is hot; is that ok?” she asked us in Japanese, eyeing our white foreigner complexions.

“It’s fine,” I answered. I wondered for a moment what she meant by that; of course the bath water would be hot.

The only other patrons were a few elderly ladies washing themselves at the facets. I felt intensely out of place; a young, white American foreigner getting naked in front of older Japanese women, in what was clearly a local hangout. I’d been to regular bathhouses before and didn’t mind undressing with strangers. As long as everyone else was doing the same thing and minding their own business getting clean, it felt entirely natural. But when I already felt singled out, being naked had a way of doubling the vulnerability. I was very glad I had a friend with me in the same situation. We feigned confidence, put our clothes in their cubbies and washed at the facets.

The surprise came when we dipped our toes into the bath. It burned. I was sure that just a few degrees more, and the water would start bubbling steam hot enough to boil ramen in.

We made vain attempts to hold our feet underwater for longer than ten seconds, pulling back up with reddened skin and a gasp. While we hovered at the bath edge, one of the women stepped in, plopping down to settle herself up to her chin and shut her eyes. We stared as she made no indication of the slightest bit of discomfort. Another woman followed her example at the other side of the room. Mari and I looked at each other, poked at the water, and backed away in defeat. For the next ten minutes we sat on the stools, waiting a reasonable amount of time such that the lady at the entrance counter wouldn’t suspect that her warning had been valid.

It was all we could do to leave in awe and respect for those tough elderly ladies.

cat in bath sketch

Onsen in Beppu—Kitahama Hot Springs, Termas

onsen symbol

The symbol for onsen

Onsen are hot springs, also used to refer to the bathing facilities around the hot springs. In contrast, sentou are indoor public bath houses where the baths are filled with gas-heated tap water[1]. Beppu has eight major hot springs known as “Beppu Hatto” (Beppu Eight)[2]. Beppu has the second-largest amount of hot spring water discharge in the world, with 2,909 vents[2].

My study abroad program was in the summer, through the tsuyu rainy season and on into the sweltering humidity of June-July. Some days, even fresh from a shower, it only took thirty seconds to be dripping with sweat again. It was the worst season for hot baths. Regardless, I had come across the Pacific Ocean to Japan’s most famous onsen locale; I wasn’t going to leave without trying a few.

One of my favorite onsen experiences was at Kitahama Hot Spings, Termas[3]. Termas has an outdoor bath the size of a small swimming pool. Because it was co-ed, we wore swimsuits; a good thing, because the multistory hotel between the bathhouse and the bay had lots of overlooking windows. I would definitely have raised an objection to traveling businessmen surveying a women’s bath from their hotel suites.

It was hard to resist floating around despite the no-swimming rule. There are several standard onsen rules, such as no swimming, splashing or noisiness (don’t disturb the other patrons), don’t drop your towel in, and (this might disappoint a lot of foreign visitors) anyone with a tattoo cannot enter the bath. I suppose this is to deter yakuza (mafia) from hanging out and scaring customers.

With the breeze from the bay, warm water to soak in and surrounding city lights, visiting Termas was one of the most surreal and wonderful nights I spent in Beppu. I’m sad that, because I didn’t want to get my camera wet, I couldn’t take any pictures.

To make up for it, here’s a very cute illustrated article on onsen rules: http://www.wattention.com/archives/onsen/


[1] Wikipedia contributors. “Onsen.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 18 Aug. 2014. Web. 6 Oct. 2014.

[2] Wikipedia contributors. “Beppu Onsen.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 8 Jan. 2014. Web. 6 Oct. 2014.

[3] http://www.city.beppu.oita.jp/01onsen/english/02shiei/08terumas/terumas.html